How to Distress Wood Using a Propane Torch

Learn how to create a DIY distressed wood picture hanger


There’s just something special about a piece of furniture that appears to be handed down through generations. Aged or weathered looking furniture has the ability to create a very inviting, yet rustic charm to any space, giving it character. 

But if you were not one of the fortunate ones to own any of these pieces, fear not! You can create your own weathered looking furniture right at home. No need to break the bank purchasing distressed wood or furniture, when you can do it yourself at a fraction of the cost. 

Whether you intend on using your distressed wood for a table, shelve or for decoration… This article will show you how you can achieve that look, by creating a picture hanger, and best of all you can always tailor the technique to suit your needs.

So if you’re ready to age it like a fine wine, let’s dive in.

Materials needed:

Cedar Wood 

Miter saw 

Propane torch 

Safety gears (gloves, safety glasses)

Coarse brush 

Triple zero steel wool

Washcloth

Drill with nylon flap brush

Wood stain white wash

Weathered gray wood stain

Sunbleached wood stain

Distilled vinegar

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1:  Cutting the wood

Before we get to the fun part, make sure you arrange how many pieces of wood you will need and cut them. In this article the focus will be on a picture hanger, so the wood will be cut into four 2 foot pieces.

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To cut the wood you can use a Japanese pull saw, a miter saw or a table saw. Use what you have at your disposal and get cutting. 

Make sure to create your tongue and groove in each section so that once you’re done with the boards, you can glue them easily together without adding a backpiece. This is to ensure that it’s not too heavy and hangs comfortably on the wall. However if you use a lighter wood light cedar fence picket, then you may need to add some sort of support at the back.

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The design layout of the picture hanger is to have the pieces of wood stacked on top of each other, but not in perfect alignment. Some will be protruding more to the left or right, to give it that shiplapping look.

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2:  Torchville

Now on to a bit more excitement, let’s get the propane torch and you guessed it, for this section you’re going to torch the wood to give it some texture, before applying the finish. 

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Before you get excited remember safety first, make sure you’re wearing your gloves and safety glasses before proceeding to burn the wood pieces. Also try to keep the wood damp at all times when burning it to limit warping.

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Once you’re through burning the wood, take a coarse brush and a drill with a nylon flap brush and scrape the surface of the wood, to get rid of the charred areas to reveal some nice textures.

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3:  Adding the finishes

It’s time to add a variety of finishes to your wood. The first finish you can apply to your piece is our diy method, this uses triple zero steel wool ‘the finer the better’ and distilled vinegar.

To get started place your steel wool in a mason jar or glass jar, then take your vinegar and pour it in the jar, the steel wool should be completely submerged in the vinegar.

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Place the container on a shelf for about two days without a covering so that the gasses can escape. If you’re worried about dust, dirt or critters getting inside you can simply place a lid on top of it ¾ the way. Just remember not to seal it.

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After your vinegar has ‘marinated’ for two days, you’ll notice that your steel wool has dissolved into a “vinegar stew”. What you’ll need to do at this point is to filter out some of that slop. 


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You can do this by pouring it through a paper towel placed over the lid of a wide mouth mason jar, or you can use a filter.  

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Once you’ve done that add a bit more fresh vinegar to the mix, about a two to one ratio. So about half the amount of what you have in the jar and grab your paint brush and apply your vinegar mix to the wood.

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Next you want to apply your weathered gray wood stain using a piece of fabric or washcloth.

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Move on to the next piece of wood and apply your wood stain white wash using another piece of fabric.

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And your last piece of wood you can apply your sunbleached wood stain.

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4:  The stained results

Now that you’re through applying the finishes and the pieces of wood are completely dry, it’s time to move on to the next step.

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Your home made mixture of vinegar and steel wool when applied to the wood appeared to be very dark, but once dried it has a mix of very light to medium gray tones that looks very nicely aged. Also this is the cheapest and easiest way you can finish a piece of wood. Get yourself a torch, torch the wood, brush it off and all you need is some vinegar, steel wool and some time.

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The results of your weathered gray finish will appear completely different from how it appeared, when you applied it. When it was applied you’ll notice that the gray color was very strong, but once dried the wood absorbs the gray, and it becomes a very light shadowy gray tone that’s not so prominent. So this piece will look the most natural.

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As for your wood stain white wash, the results are quite amazing as it has a nice depth to it and good ranges of the color.

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And last but surely not least is your sunbleached wood stain finish. The results of this finish left the wood with some good dimensions, in a completely different way from the white wash.


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5:  Assembling the pieces

Now that you have all your distressed wood pieces with varying colors and visual textures… It’s time to put it all together. To make the assembly more appealing you can alternate between the dark and light finishes, with about two inches of overhang for each slat. 

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You may discover that when you were torching the wood that some of your tongue and groove areas may have been burnt off, so the tongue and groove will not be able to hold on its own. So you want to turn your pieces over and begin to assemble them. 

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Measure two pieces of furring strips, glue them down across all four pieces of wood on the opposite ends, nail them down securely and then add a little hanging strip. 

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To complete the picture hanger you can glue a few clothes pins in place to hold your pictures… And that is it, you can choose to use it for a sign, a picture hanger or as sculptural piece, it’s really up to you. 

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